Longford lecture

“Each year some 140,000 inmates pass through British prisons, of whom as many as 70,000 have some form of addictive illness. They move from one environment in which drugs are both sustenance and currency while crime is the means to pay for it, to another in which exactly the same is the case – only with greater intensity.

“Let’s assume that each of these inmates procures just a single gram of heroin while inside; this would imply that 70 kilos of heroin are smuggled into prisons during that year. In fact, as any reasonably dispassionate professional would tell you, the quantities are far larger.

“In the past, illegal drugs were brought into prison by visitors – and this continues to be the case. However, in the past decade or so, the use of sniffer dogs and searches has considerably constricted this flow, and the shortfall in supply has been made up by corrupt prison officers and other staff.

“How do I know this? After all, the numbers of prison officers being convicted for drug smuggling are paltry. The then under-secretary for state with responsibility for prisons and probation, Crispin Blunt, was asked about this in Parliament as recently as March, and he replied that a total of 18 officers had been convicted since 2008. Unless we are to assume that these individuals were not simply mules but actual packhorses, we can only surmise that they represent a fraction of the total.”

To read the rest of Will Self’s excerpt from his Longford lecture, to be delivered tonight at 6.30pm at Church House, Westminster, visit the Telegraph website here.